Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Why Corporate Volunteering Matters

Posted by , on June 16th, 2014

study by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) shows that in 2012 70% of companies offered employees paid volunteering opportunities, up from 53% in 2007.

This drive towards greater corporate philanthropy is something that Mustard Tree has benefitted from. Sometimes this leads to more than we or the volunteer in question initially intended. For example, Geoff McGuire, who voluntarily runs our 10-week Electronic Music Production Course, became involved with our James Hardy Music Project after he attended a Make a Difference Day organised by his employers Barclays Bank.

Though he was originally involved in repairing part of our building, Geoff got chatting about music to Graham Hudson, our Creative Programmes Manager, and from there he ended up teaching the course and having the opportunity to be a positive influence on our clients.

We already have numerous volunteers who help the charity by offering services such as counselling or teaching back to work skills. We also hold group volunteering days, where 10-20 people spend a full day helping us keep on top of things by refurbishing, cleaning, sorting out stock, and other day-to-day activities. What the collaborative efforts of these groups can achieve is amazing. To think that spaces like our community garden, could not have been built without the tireless effort of numerous volunteers!

But there is always room for more corporate volunteers, with experience in various disciplines over a range of sectors. Not only might they have practical skills that they can pass on to our clients, they could potentially inspire our clients to consider careers they had never even considered. It’s not only about directly helping the clients, but also helping Mustard Tree and our staff so that we can improve the way the charity runs.

Though there are numerous potential benefits for Mustard Tree, the individuals and businesses involved will certainly gain too. Consumers and shareholders are more likely to trust businesses that incorporate good values, and volunteering is an opportunity, especially for local businesses, to build lasting, meaningful relationships with the community. And it differs significantly from a financial donation in that you can see the impact your philanthropy has had, and how it can change lives.

Official Owners Celebration

Posted by , on May 23rd, 2014

On Saturday May 17 Mustard Tree celebrated what will surely be one of the most defining moments in its 20-year history.

We have become official owners of 110 Oldham Road, our warehouse facility headquarters in Ancoats. For nine years we had rented the premises, until recently, when the building’s owner, Anthony Preston, made the immensely charitable gesture of donating it to us.

It is an act of great generosity that will have a hugely positive impact on the lives of the homeless and marginalised that Mustard Tree helps every day. It means we now have long-term security and can really look to invest in the building for the future. To mark the occasion, we invited people to take a tour of the building and meet our staff and volunteers, as well as providing a buffet prepared by one of our ex clients. The event was attended by around 200 people, from volunteers past and present, clients, supporters, and corporate supporters.

Anthony Preston himself made an appearance and was met with a standing ovation, seemingly taken aback by the outpouring of feeling from Mustard Tree supporters. As a token of thanks, we presented him with a scrapbook that included quotes from staff, volunteers and supporters about how his gift of the building made them feel. Mustard Tree will be keeping hold of the scrapbook for a few weeks in order to include even more positive feedback, so if you have any comments you would like the Preston family to read, please do email

Overall, the atmosphere was fantastic, the food was delicious and emotions were high, reflecting the fact that this is truly a game changer for Mustard Tree. Graham Hudson, our Creative Programmes Manager, summed up what the ownership means for the charity: “For me, the overriding theme of the open day event was one of “transformation”. Transformation from a personal perspective, transformation in the sense of our sustainability now that we own the building, the proposed transformation of the building itself and the most important aspect, the continued transformation of individual lives, families and communities throughout Greater Manchester.”

Mustard Tree CEO Adrian Nottingham said of the new ownership: “Due to the remarkable generosity of the Preston Family our main Manchester facilities are now secure, and with the continued help, support and favour of our many friends and partners, we are here for the long haul. The need for Mustard Tree is greater today than it ever has been. This donation is an absolute game changer for us and has come just at the right time. We are already planning how we will complete a necessary refurb and best utilise this incredible asset for the future.”

Our Community Garden

Posted by , on May 20th, 2014

The name Mustard Tree was inspired by the following Biblical parable:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

(Matthew chapter 13, verses 31-32)

It’s only fitting, then, that a charity whose name conjures images of growth, nurture and horticulture should have a community garden. But it was easier said than done, given that our headquarters are in Ancoats, hardly known for being an oasis of greenery.

Behind the building we had a derelict car park, overgrown with weeds and brambles, that had the potential to accommodate such a garden, but, it would take almost two years – from our first application to Manchester City Council in 2010 to the launch event in 2012 – before the community garden became a reality.

This wouldn’t have been possible without a generous grant from the Council’s Regeneration Team and the incredible, tireless effort from a whole load of volunteers. It started with the hard task of digging up all the existing concrete using a mini-digger; then we needed to put down soil so the garden could take shape. In the span of several months a patch of wasteland became a beautiful outdoor area with seating, hanging plants, vegetable patches and improvised flower beds made from old bath tubs and tyres.

Next month, the community garden will celebrate its second anniversary and we’d like to take a moment to talk about the positive impact of this space:

Gardening & Therapy

There has been plenty of literature written about the therapeutic benefits of gardening. Many of our clients suffer from mental health issues, and the community garden can provide a place to improve their emotional and physical well-being. It offers a different environment in which to socialise, and growing and looking after the plants can give a genuine sense of community, shared purpose, and responsibility. Gardening has even been used to treat children with behavioural problems. We are glad that the garden is also of benefit to clients from other organisations based at 110 Oldham Road, in particular from the Boaz Trust.

Gardening Courses

Having a garden means we can also run gardening courses, so that participants can learn the skill they would need to tend to gardens of their own and how to grown organically. The courses are run by Jayne Lawton from Grobox Gardens every Monday at 10:30 am.


The garden also has more immediate uses. We now have a wealth of fresh herbs – mint, sage, chive, fennel – to add to the meals we cook for our staff and volunteers.

Returning to the Biblical parable from which we take our name, the Jewish audience of Jesus’ day would have known that Mustard was one of the plants banned from their own herb gardens due to the unruly size it grew to. They would also have known that “the birds of the air” meant specifically unclean birds – in other words, the kind of “messy people” that most good religious folk wouldn’t want hanging around. So it is especially pleasing that not only our building, but now also our garden, can become a home and a haven for men and women struggling on the margins of society in Greater Manchester.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask


Posted by , on May 7th, 2014

Homeless people often suffer from a wide range of problems beyond the immediate and obvious lack of accommodation, food and warm clothing.

The biggest single cause of homelessness in the UK is relationship breakdown, which is evidently a distressing factor in its own right. Compounding this, homelessness brings with it uncertainty, anxiety, isolation, trauma and possibly abuse – all of which have adverse health effects, both emotionally and physically. Above all, it’s about loss. Losing a home, a sense of belonging, a support network, security, self-respect, and many other things.

It’s no wonder then that many homeless people have mental health issues, in particular depression, which may have directly contributed to or been brought about by their homelessness. Incredibly rough sleepers are 35 times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population. Even among those who aren’t rough-sleeping and live in temporary accommodation, over 70 per cent admit to being depressed, according to Shelter.

Many suffer from addiction issues that have often been exacerbated by living on the streets. Crime and violence against homeless people are not uncommon either, meaning that rough sleepers especially live in fear of being attacked. What all of this means is that the average homeless person will have undoubtedly suffered some degree of physical and emotional trauma. Trauma that needs to be worked through.

Counselling is just one of the ways we can help homeless people work through the issues they have and ultimately rebuild their lives. It can be instrumental in breaking the dependency caused by alcohol and drug abuse, combatting self-esteem problems and depression, and tackling unhealthy patterns of behaviour that hinder recovery.

Since our formation in 1994, Mustard Tree have helped many people get their lives back on track through our Freedom and Dignity projects, which have included an in-house counselling service for the last three years. Some of stories from people who have taken part in the projects give an insight into how our clients are feeling when they come to us. They reveal the types of problems that we try to address with counselling, including depression, coping with loss, and addiction:

“When I first started volunteering at the Mustard Tree I was an alcoholic. The Freedom Project team have provided me with a mentor, a recovered alcoholic himself, who I meet up with every week. They also referred me onto one of the Mustard Tree counsellors, who I have been meeting with weekly. Thanks to these avenues of support I have now been sober for 11 months.”

“I wanted to get back into a working routine after a long period doing almost nothing. During that time I had been getting more and more depressed and I needed to break that cycle. Up until early last year, I was still planning suicide and things were pretty bleak.”

“Before coming to the Mustard Tree I had been through a string of major life changes. I finished my degree, my mum passed away, my mentor (who was a significant person to me) also passed away and I split up from my long-term girlfriend. I was left in a situation where I felt like I had no life. I’d been a carer, a student and a partner, and all that had gone. When you lose all the things that define you, it is an awful place to be.”

You can read the full Life Stories here to get a better idea of the state of mind of our clients and the types of problems that our counsellors deal with.

We currently have one fully trained counsellor, Melanie Camu, who runs our Ancoats-based service, assisted by two trainee counsellors. Counselling takes place at Mustard Tree three times a week. Currently the service can only be accessed by our Freedom and Dignity Project participants, as part of the work we do in assisting them to rebuild their lives.

We are looking to expand this service in the near future by adding additional qualified volunteer counsellors to the team. If you have the spare time to give to our clients, we would very much like to hear from you. Please contact for further information.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

The Importance of Soup Runs

Posted by , on April 30th, 2014

Soup runs, or soup kitchens, have a longstanding place in the mainstream provision for homeless people.

It is thought that the first soup runs emerged in the late 18th century and were invaluable over the following centuries, especially during economic crises like the Irish Famine and the Great Depression. The global financial crisis and subsequent austerity measures have seen an increase in the use of soup kitchens as more people find themselves in vulnerable financial situations.

Despite their good intentions, soup runs have met with criticism over the years. In 1834 soup kitchens were actually made illegal in Britain under the Poor Law Amendment Act, partly because they attracted so-called vagrants. The most notable recent censure was Westminster’s planned ban of soup runs (as well as rough sleeping) around Westminster cathedral in 2011. The plans were eventually dropped, but they demonstrate the ongoing strength of feeling against the practice of giving free hot food to those on the streets.

In what has become an increasingly polarised debate, those against soup runs claim that such activities encourage dependency, serve many people who are not homeless, and even sustain rough sleeping. For their part, soup-run organisers have countered that they are feeding some of the most vulnerable people in society and responding to an immediate need.

Given the endemic food poverty in Britain and the drastic increase in the number of foodbanks, it’s clear that there are more people than just the homeless who can and should benefit from soup runs.  Most soup runs are indiscriminate in whom they serve and admit that they are aware that many of their users are not rough sleepers or homeless.

At Mustard Tree we see the benefit that soup runs can have. Each and every Friday evening, between 7 and 9pm, we serve hot, nutritious meals at our Ancoats headquarters. We cater for around 70 people who not only live on the streets, but also in hostels or other types of temporary accommodation.

And while we realise that soup runs can’t address all the issues of the attendees, we also know that they do much more than simply feed. To those who might be isolated and marginalised, they offer an opportunity to talk and socialise. We can also talk about the work that the charity does, and point them in the direction of other services that can help, as well signpost them to the Mustard Tree headquarters where they can receive blankets and warm clothing.

Furthermore, soup runs act as fundamental first step in starting relationships with clients; a chance, albeit brief, to develop a trusting relationship that may help in the future. It could be the vital link between providing people with a hand-out, and giving them the opportunity to receive a hand-up from one of our other services.

We are always looking for volunteers to help on these soup runs. If you’re interested in becoming involved, you can find out more information on our volunteering page.

And if you, or someone you know, are in desperate need of food, you can download our soup kitchen dates and times document.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

Generosity in an age of Austerity

Posted by , on April 28th, 2014


A Thank you to Graphics and Print

Posted by , on April 24th, 2014

As a charity, we continually rely on the goodwill and generosity of many individuals and organisations. Over recent years, a number of businesses have increasingly helped us out in a variety of creative ways.

One such organisation we’d like to thank is Graphics and Print. The banner at the top of our website, with the amazing collage of Mustard Tree volunteers, supporters and staff, was created by them, and if you remember the old site you can see how much of an improvement it is. They have even created a huge version of it that has been mounted on the wall in our first floor central space.

G&P Wall Banner.JPG

On top of this, Graphics and Print have created marketing materials for several of our events. They’re also in the middle of creating brand new leaflets for us, which will undoubtedly look fantastic, and they’ve chosen us as their official charity to support. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they’ve been promoting a food drive for the last couple of weeks to help raise supplies our food stores! (If you or your business want to contribute too, please bring items from our essential foods list to our HQ at 110 Oldham Road, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6AG).

G&P Food Drive2 2014.jpg

We’re very humbled by this support and the difference it makes to Mustard Tree’s image. So, once again, a big thanks to Graphics and Print for all their work over the last couple of years. We truly value partnerships such as this as we couldn’t do what we do without them.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

The James Hardy Music Project Launch

Posted by , on April 15th, 2014

On March 27 Mustard Tree officially launched the James Hardy Music Project. It was a wonderful evening of song and celebration, tinged with sadness but full of hope.

The project takes its name from a former client of Mustard tree who sadly took his own life. James was a talented guitarist and this project will aim not only to honour his memory but also to teach clients the skills needed to make their own music, by providing all the equipment and information they need. And we hope that the process of making music will have a positive influence, helping clients become part of a community and family.

James Hardy.JPGJames playing the guitar – something he loved to do.

Tony Hardy, James’ father, made a moving and impassioned speech about his son’s life, talking openly about his struggles with depression and drug addiction, and how he found pleasure and solace in music. To Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”, Tony played the same slideshow that was played at James’ funeral, a beautiful collection of images that followed him from a young boy to a grown man. James’s aunt also came forward to speak of his resourcefulness and kindness, as well as his passion for music.

Adrian Nottingham, the CEO of Mustard Tree, spoke about plans for the future, when the project will have a bigger home with a both a live room and recording room thanks to the music studio’s expansion. He also touched upon how our various projects are a “creative way of starting a conversation” and that the conversation can itself “open a door that will open other doors”.

Geoff McGuire, who voluntarily runs the 10-week Electronic Music Production Course for the project, talked about how he became involved with Mustard Tree after a Make a Difference Day with his employer Barclays; and Graham Hudson, our Creative Programmes manager, recalled his fond memories of James, who would often sit and play guitar in the art studio.

As a fitting example of the music project’s potential, there was an impressive performance from Ntokozo, one of Mustard Tree’s clients. He had written a rap to accompany the track that had been created during the Electronic Music Production Course by Geoff and our clients. You can watch a video of Ntokozo performing his rap on Youtube.

James Hardy 7.JPG

To cap off the evening, Tony, who works for Lifeline,  talked about his own experiences with addiction and played some of his own acoustic songs.

Mustard Tree would like to thank all those who attended as well as James’s family and the performers. And let’s not forget the wonderful volunteers who put on such a great spread!

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

Swishing Event

Posted by , on April 14th, 2014

From 1-3pm on Saturday 26 April at Eccles Town Hall, Mustard Tree will be holding our first ever Swishing event.

For those of you who haven’t heard of swishing, it can be described as a sustainable, eco-friendly, and fun way to simultaneously update your wardrobe and get rid of your unwanted clothes. Whether you’ve been stockpiling shoes or hoarding hoodies, this is the time to do something about it.

When you come to our event, bring along any clothes you no longer wear, like, or have a use for (just make sure they’re clean and presentable) and you can exchange them for clothes brought by other people. We’ll give you one raffle ticket for every item of clothing you provide, and you can exchange this ticket for another item of your choice.

Entry to the event will cost only £1 and all proceeds will go to Mustard Tree. Any of your items of clothing that don’t get picked will be donated to our shops, unless you would prefer to keep them, in which case just let us know and we’ll give them back to you at the end of the event.

Set up by London-based Futerra, swishing has become popular over the last few years, with events being held across the country. It’s been covered in Vogue and Grazia, and even featured on the Radio 4’s the Archers last year.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

Swishing Event Poster

A Donation from UKPOS

Posted by , on March 20th, 2014

Mustard Tree was delighted to receive a very generous donation from the UK Point of Sale Group. The organisation, who are the UK’s No.1 p.o.s. manufacturer, gifted £200 worth of their stock to our Ancoats shop, including 4 bump bins, 4 poster holders, 1 tagging gun, 1 barrier post and 1 A1 A-board.

Many of these items would be perfect for small business in the area, with the a-board and poster holders in particular being ideal for showcasing promotional material. The tagging gun, designed for putting labels on garments, would be extremely useful for small clothes manufacturers. We’re sure that it won’t be long before someone gives them a new home, so head down to our shop soon to avoid being disappointed!

Mustard Tree shops rely on generous donations from individuals and businesses throughout the region and we are always looking for more contributions. The proceeds made from the sale of items in our shop go directly to helping the charity and its clients, and the many projects we run, from the Ready for Work Club to the Freedom Project.

UKPOS’s Georgia Jameson said: “We’re delighted to be able to offer assistance to Mustard Tree which provides such vital support to those who are homeless or marginalised across the north west. There are numerous reasons why people find themselves homeless – sadly, mental health issues for example still carry a stigma, leaving people feeling vulnerable, afraid to seek help and ultimately alienated. We’re very proud to support local charities who are working so hard to turn lives around.”

Mustard Tree extends a huge thankyou to the UK Point of Sale Group for their kind donation and their support.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask